Winter bike tires can make your winter bicycling commuting safe. Now, you might be wondering do I really need winter bike tires? What difference does it make? A tire is a tire after all! I am glad you asked. Winter bike tires have special tread patterns. The studs are positioned in a way to provide more grip on the icy roads. You will experience a better grip, improved performance in wet and cold riding conditions as well as more puncture resistance! How cool is that?
You can see how important an investment in proper studded bike tires is if you really want to enjoy your bike 12 months a year, right? For winter, a few small metal pins could mean the difference between enjoying the view or ending up in the hospital because you slipped while making a turn. So, I’m going to show you which studded bike tires are the best. As promised, here are my detailed reviews.
The Best 5 Studded Bike Tires for Snow and Ice
Let’s take a look at some of the best-studded bike tires that are loved by many users.TOP TIRE
1. SCHWALBE Marathon Winter HS 396 Studded Road Bike Tire- Editor’s Choice
- 700c size
- Available in 40mm and 50mm width options
- Clincher wire bead
- Smartguard puncture protection
- Embedded tungsten carbide studs
- All-round wire bead
This tire has received a lot of positive reviews for its performance on challenging terrain such as ice patches, ruts in the snow-covered ground, or even powder snow. One of the most talked about features of these studded tires is their grip. Now, how long you will stay upright also depends on your own skill level, but counter steer at the right moment, and the wheels will provide the needed grip.
In most cases, you’ll remain in control of your bike even if you’re in 3” of snow. In fresh snow you can push it up to 5” and you’ll still be relatively safe. They also perform well on regular surfaces. What I liked was that I felt no irritating vibrations despite the stud making noises.
Learn about the importance of checking your bike tire’s expiry date and how to do it yourself.
2. Nokian Hakkapelitta 700×32 72 Steel Studs
- Non-toxic rubber compound
- Tubeless compatible
- 72 steel studs
- Aggressive tread pattern
- Reflective sidewalls
Nokian is a tire found on many professionals’ bikes. The tires provide a safe ride even on icy terrain or in 3” of snow. This is possible with the position of the studs. The studs are located on the sides of the tire, giving you a grip when riding through icy or snow-covered tracks. The right pressure for these tires is 58 PSI. You can lower it to ride on icy tracks.
Discover the best techniques for cycling in winter weather, including how to handle different types of snow and ice.
PRICE MATCHED WITH QUALITY
3. ARISUN Tires SHARKTOOTH
- 152 tungsten alloy studs with zinc-plated steel base
- Three rows of longitudinal tread lugs arranged in a directional V design
- Available in 26×4.0 and 29×2.8 sizes
- Aggressive tread pattern
- Tubeless Ready
ARISUN uses a unique approach to stud placement in this tire. The 152 studs are positioned in the form of Vs. This provides you with traction the entire time the wheel is rolling. If you’re shopping on a budget, you can consider only placing a studded tire on the front wheel.
Some riders still manage enough grip to travel safely with this setup. The studs themselves are trustworthy because they’re made of zinc-plated steel with a tungsten alloy tip.
4. SCHWALBE Ice Spiker Pro Folding Winter Clincher
- Available in 27.5×2.25 and 29×2.25 sizes
- 378 tungsten carbide studs
- Foldable bead
- RaceGuard puncture protection
The Ice Spiker Pro provides a firm grip on snow or icy terrain. Many users have reviewed that these tires perform well in mud too. With this product, note that the manufacturer advises them to be used for 25 miles on normal asphalt before putting them to the test on snow or ice. This will ensure the studs are forced into place permanently.
For your own safety, I suggest you purchase these studded bike tires in the summer before the snow falls and take time to prepare your bike for winter.
5. Kenda Klondike 27.5 x 2.10“ Studded Tire
Price: $42.70- $69.95
- 168 carbide-tipped studs
- Directional tread pattern
- Easy installation with wire bead
- Available in 26×1.95, 26×2.10, 27.5×2.10, 29×2.10, and 700c sizes
One of the first things you’ll notice is the weight because these are heavier than some others. When you compare rolling resistance it may be slightly less impressive than the normal tires of your mountain bike. But that doesn’t mean they don’t work: they’re still highly valued. Especially by commuters looking for an affordable tire option.
This brand may not be as impressive as the more expensive Nokian, because you need to replace them after 1000 miles or so. They are a feasible option if you’re new to riding in snow and shopping on a budget.
Advice for Using Studded Tires
There are some things you need to be mindful of when using studded tires:
- The right pressure for most of these tires is 58 PSI. You can lower it to ride on icy tracks. Keep the pressure to the minimum.
- Test the pressure regularly before heading out.
- Be very mindful on turns and while braking to not lose control.
- Make sure that you inspect your tires before you head out.
- Watch out for the potholes. These tires can get stuck in them.
- Once you get home, do not roll the tire on your floors because the tungsten carbide studs will leave scratches. It’s safe on carpets, but almost any hard surface will suffer.
Read reviews and opinions on winter cycling gear that has been tested in icy conditions.
Home Made Studded Tires- How Can You Make Them?
You can manufacture a studded bike tire for a lower price. Homemade studs are usually heavy, and prone to flats. However, most serious bike riders have the necessary spare knobbies lying around, and with a few cheap materials, you can have a lot of fun out on the lake.
Tools Needed For Making A Studded Tire
This usually involves installing screws through the casing, from the inside. This usually necessitates a tire liner (perhaps just a extra dead tube) to prevent damage from screws that back out, or abrasion from screw heads.
- One tire. You need a tire with knobs big enough to support the stud. The stud as explained further down, has to be on the
- 50 (approx.) Robertson head #8 by 1/2″ sheet metal screws (the square head, you’ll thank me for this tip) for mountain bike tires (26inch) or #8 by 3/8 inch for hybrid tires (700c)
- Liner for each tire. This can be made by cutting the beads off an old tire, cutting out the valve, and slitting along the inside of an inner tube or just buying a Mr. Tuffy tire liner.
- Baby powder.
- One sharp awl. (or a 1/8″ drill bit)
- Count the knobs and evenly spread out the 25 screws for each side.
- Punch holes, from the outside of the tire, into the designated knobs. You can drill the hole, however, drilling tends to tear the fabric and thus weakens the tire. Caution you don’t need a million screws in there! Too many screws just slow you down.
- Use the Robertson bit in the drill to drive the screws in the tire from the inside.
- Put liner inside tire and make sure it covers the screw heads
- Put a generous dusting of baby powder between the liner and the tube.
- Mount tire on the rim (ouch! Watch out for the points!)
- Inflate to maximum pressure. Put the wheel on the bike (mind the points). Spin the wheel to make sure that the studs don’t catch on anything.
Guidelines For DIY Studded Bike Tire
- You only need to stud the front tire to keep upright. However, if you stud the back tire as well, it’s even better. One caveat is that these tires are only suitable for winter conditions.
- The difference between one studded front and no studded tires is phenomenal. When the bike is traveling straight the studs shouldn’t be hitting the road too hard. Otherwise, they will just wear out too soon. Here’s the good part, when the tire slips just a bit the studs will bite in. You rarely notice the slight side-to-side movement.
- You don’t need to stud the middle knobs since you only need the added traction when you are turning. The studs should touch the road enough to allow sufficient braking. The studs in the middle knobs wear out very fast and soon become useless anyway.
- Stainless steel screws will last much longer but also cost about 3 times as much. You can change screws as they wear out. Your tire can survive several sets of studs.
The Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society recommends this method.
Learn whether your bike tires have a specific direction and how to tell which way they should be mounted.
Are All Studs Created Equal?
As arranged on the Icebike mailing list, I volunteered to perform hardness tests on a few studs from winter bicycling tires. Several others agreed to send samples of studs and shortly I received studs from 3 different studded tires: Nokian, IRC, and Nashbar, to measure their hardness.
At last, I have the stud hardness test results! Here is my report:
First The Background
In a hardness test, a small indenter (in this case made of diamond) is pressed into the surface of a metal sample with a known force. The result is a small impression, and the size of the impression is an indication of hardness. The smaller the impression, the harder the material.
The term “Hardness” is really a measure of the ability of a sample to resist indentation, and in itself, it is meaningless and only becomes useful when compared to the hardness of something else. There is a definite relation between hardness and strength and wear resistance. Harder materials are stronger and more wear-resistant.
To measure the hardness, the sample must be properly prepared. The standard metallographic technique is to embed the sample in a plastic “mount” which allows the technician to hold the sample in proper alignment for preparation. In this case, the studs were laid on their side in the mount. The face of the mount was ground down, and in the process, the studs themselves were partially ground away.
In this case, we ground the mount until about half the studs were ground away, revealing a cross-section through the stud centerline. This surface is then polished to a mirror-smooth finish since the hardness impressions are microscopic and surface imperfections could affect the result, thus the need for a flat smooth surface.
Here is an image of the prepared mount with the ground and polished studs showing their cross sections.
It can be seen that the studs have a “T” shape cross section. There is a head at one end (like a nail head), a body, and a tapered end, which is the “business” end of the stud that makes contact with the ground.
Now The Results
It is immediately obvious that the Nokian and IRC studs are made from two pieces: the stud body which is steel, and an insert brazed into the center of the stud. It is the brazed insert that is in contact with the ground, and the body is simply a holder. The Nashbar stud is a single piece of steel.
The Nokian insert had a hardness of 1700 KN (Knoop hardness scale). The IRC insert had a hardness of 1400 KN. The Nashbar had a hardness of 350 KN (corresponding to about 57 HRC for those who care about such things).
The Nashbar stud is by visual examination and hardness testing, simply hardened steel. It was harder on the surface than in the center, which implies a low alloy and/or low carbon steel (ie: less expensive steel), as something this small should harden throughout its thickness when heat treated – there should be no hardness gradient.
I made no attempt to identify the composition of the IRC or Nokian inserts (that would have been a bit expensive), but my best guess is they are “carbide”, a very hard, wear-resistant material commonly used for high-wear applications like metal working tools, saw blade edges, and so on.
A word of caution: Don’t try to attach a “value” to the relative hardness of the studs. The Nokian is not “5 times better than the Nashbar” nor will it “last 5 times longer”. All that can be said is that the Nokian and IRC are “substantially harder and will be much more wear-resistant” than the Nashbar.
As a metallurgist, and knowing the environment these tires run in, I would be very surprised to see significant wear on a Nokian or IRC stud, whereas, on road surfaces, I would expect wear on the Nashbar. Running on dirt or ice the Nashbar may hold up much longer.
On a personal note, I am impressed with the degree of technology exhibited by the Nokian and IRC tires. There is considerably more cost involved in preparing the stud to receive the insert, and then going through the brazing process, compared to the Nashbar stud which is simply machined and then heat treated. I can understand why the Nokian tire is so expensive!
Background reading: Microhardness Testing
By Bill Dobson[/box]
Tire Chains- Can You Use Them As An Alternative?
In addition to studded tires for supplying winter traction, there are also bike tire chains and bike tire wires. These usually attach to the tires, while avoiding the bike rims so as not to interfere with the brakes. The chains cross the tread providing traction in deep snow and ice. The wire variety usually holds chunks of metal with teeth positioned over the tread.
You’ll experience a bumpy ride on pavement as compared to the studded tires. However, some claim that bike chains provide better traction than studs in thick snow and that brown compacted but un-consolidated squirming mass forms when cars drive over new snow but it is too warm for it to freeze to the ground. The good news is that when it is really snowy, you won’t feel the bumpy ride.
Is It Possible To Make Homemade Chains?
It is also possible to make your own tire chains for bike use. Not limited to winter ice and snow. These are also suitable for mud and off-road work. While probably inappropriate for public trails over delicate ecosystems, they should work well on semi-frozen snow trails if your bike has the clearance to accommodate them.
Keep your bike in top condition during the winter months with these maintenance tips.
Problems With Using A Bike Chain
1. They have a light construction
Tire chains for bikes are far more lightly constructed than those for cars. They also have the attendant problem that the tire rims must not be obstructed because that would interfere with the brake pads. This latter restriction does not apply to coaster brake bikes or bikes with disk brakes.
2. They need to be installed tightly
You also have to install them tightly because they can come off in sudden turns. For this, you will have to deflate the tire to a degree, install the chain, and then re-inflate the tire. This means that if you intend to do this on the road you have to have a pump.
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3. They are less safe
Other than the rough ride there have been other problems reported with these devices. My local bike store owner reported that they sold only two sets last winter (different brands), and had trouble with both of them. One caused an accident when it came loose and seized the front wheel. This is apparently not that rare.
Studded Tires Vs Chains- What’s Best?
Chains are said to be better on unplowed roads and trails where there may be 6 inches of uncompressed snow below your wheels, some trampled and uneven. Others claim that the newest version of studded tires do better in these situations and are lighter and less problematic.
In my opinion, unless you are riding in deep snow 100% of the time, chains are not a good option. It’s a task to put the chain on a tire itself and not to forget that the chain accelerates the wear and tear of your tire. There are studded bike tire options now that are an all-rounder. You can ride them throughout the year.
You can also discuss this with your fellow riders. See what they are using and why. Get back to me in the comment section below!
What type of rims and wheels do I need for winter biking?
Wider rims are better for winter biking because you will be able to have low tire pressure without frequent pinch flats. A low tire pressure is important for studded tires to perform on ice.
Are winter bike tires worth it?
Yes, winter bike tires provide improved traction. They also make it safe to ride on snowy roads and icy tracks.
Can you put winter tires on a road bike?
Yes, you can put winter tires on a road bike.
Which tires are best for winter?
Studded tires are best for winter.
What is the disadvantage of winter tires?
The disadvantage of winter tires is that they are costly. They also do not perform well in dry conditions.
Some snow terrain is simply impossible without wide rims. If you spend much time off the road in winter you will likely sooner or later find yourself on wide rims. Needless to say, if you are a bicycle commuter who loves to get around on a bike, You don’t have to give up on winter commuting anymore!
The studded tires will help you get back on the icy roads. Don’t forget to wear winter appropriate safety gear and carry some water! Do you use a bike chain or studded tires? If you have any other concerns, reach out to me in the comment below. I will be happy to assist!
Photo Credits: Charlie Beristain, John Andersen, and Simon Rakower.
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- Real Winter Biking – This Is How You Cycle In Really Cold Weather
- The History Of Ice Biking And Winter Cycling
- Winter Cycling In Ottawa, Canada – How To Commute All Year Round
- 5 Cycling Stories Covered In Snow And Ice